Messing around with Pinephone Pro again

Jacob David C. Cunningham
7 min readOct 15, 2022

note: this is an unfiltered stream of consciousness type blog post

Pinephone Pro explorer edition on left (Manjaro, Plasma Mobile), Pinephone KDE on right (Mobian/debian Phosh)

So recently I did an -Syyu update for my Manjaro/KDE Plasma mobile install on the phone/eMMC and it just straight up broke. Some lock screen message came up and I can’t get past it. Tried plugging in a keyboard but can’t trigger the combo.

I was supposed to force myself to daily drive this phone, so that I would be interested in learning how to write software for it. But all this time, it’s just been sitting on my desk where I periodically update it every now and then. I am still interested in Linux phones but I gotta find the time to commit to it. I have a basic SMS/MMS T-mobile line for the PPP which does work (have sent texts to myself).

Trying out Arch Plasma

It’s odd, I have Mobian Phosh on SD card, it works but the browsers don’t work. I’m on my local network/can ping other devices. I have to download an ISO of the above and write it to eMMC while the SD OS is running.

I might have to reflash an OS on the SD card. I just have VS Code installed on there from last time I was messing around with this phone 7 months ago.

A major problem of the PPP right now (or used to be anyway) is waking up from sleep. If you let it fall asleep you probably will not be able to get it to wake up again as in have to restart it.

So… I’ll flash Mobian/Phosh again on the SD card from a new ISO and hopefully that’ll fix the browsers not working.

Going to use version 20221009 and balenaEtcher. Interestingly the download icon shows a raspberry pi icon.

Unfortunately the screen on my Community Edition KDE Pinephone is starting to peel. If that’s what you’d call it can see below.

shipped to me on Jan 2021

Despite the peeling, I think it is the most stable phone (makes sense oldest).

Alright booting freshly-flashed Mobian Phosh from SD.

I’m going to get the plasma again since it is the prettiest imo despite Phosh being the most reliable out of the box. By pretty I mean it is like a phone and doesn’t have that 40% space taken by app preview that Phosh has.

I’m talking about this:

In red shows you opened apps in Phosh. Doing apt-upgrade on left.

It’s nice that UBO is pre-installed on Firefox, ads trigger me. Okay… downloading.

Side note: all of the photos taken on this blog post are either from my 2020 Moto G stylus or Sony mirrorless camera (the screen peeling).

I should note that what I have written above regarding stability is with OS’s installed 7 months old with updates. The fresh install that I’m doing now might have fixed the sleep-wake issue. For instance this download of the 1.3GB ISO with 2.4GHz WiFi has taken at least 25 minutes and during that time the PPP has gone to sleep/woke up a few times. Granted it was not asleep very long I keep bringing it back up to be safe (click power).

Alright download is done, let’s write (I was working on a note-taking app that did timestamps for every written thing elapsed past 5 minutes), could be useful here.

Extract img from xz. Then do dd. Dang crazy can’t do any of this without help from others. Shoulders of giants cliche saying.

And awayyyyyy we go…

Well… it doesn’t work hmm. Won’t boot.

I’ll try Postmarket with Plasma. Well… did I just brick it lol. Can’t boot either way. I did this before. I’m going to reflash the SD card in case I messed that up somehow, doesn’t make sense I know but can’t boot it right now even with reset pin.

I did not verify which mmcblk2 was what.

Well… this was a setback haha… still trying to figure out if I bricked this phone or not.

There was darkness… started to swallow him whole. But then he found it, a sentence… “Mobian does not have a boot loader in their disk image.” Hope was restored. Did this save me from the Matrix? (try Manjaro again for SD card)

OMG it has life… so I flashed this one. 3.5 hrs later, I feel less desperate.

Manjaro Phosh on SD card

So I tried Arch Plasma and it did not work… I’ll try PostmarketOS with Plasma. I want the Plasma because I like that design.

Lol panic searching like:

Manjaro Phosh looks good. Different icon designs, background, it looks more interesting.

Holy crap the camera works, though it looks really bad. But you know what, it’s something. I can’t write a kernel camera driver.

Anyway I gotta finish putting an OS on the eMMC.

So… I think I’ll try pmOS on eMMC provided it boots with Plasma and I’ll keep Arch Phosh on uSD. I hate choosing… but both are newish to me and I also want to move on with my life for the moment ha. Whole point I was doing this is because the eMMC OS failed to boot fully on PPP.

Oh I think it won’t work unless I do the tow-boot deal. I’ll try it. What a difference 5GHz WiFi makes for download speed dang (also smaller file).

Look at this madness to get a keyboard working… keyboard has bluetooth but couldn’t find it on PPP. I’m just renaming the long img filename before trying dd again.

BOYI 68

Does not boot, alright will just stick to Manjaro and Plasma. Probably have to do Tow-boot but not going to look into that now.

Alright pretty much there, Plasma Mobile is rough unfortunately, like when you rotate the screen too fast it f’s up the rendering/cuts off half the screen (black). Which yeah, complain it’s open source, write it yourself ha (I can’t I’m a JavaScript kid).

I’m just doing updates right now, recording a video for YT (below). So that was great… just flailing around… but it’s not actually bricked so that’s great.

No it suspended and wouldn’t wake up (Manjaro/Phosh) oh well.

Well it looks like Plasma Mobile has pretty reliable video out provided you have the right kind of dongle (something about display port specifically). I show this in the video below. It seems like the phone has to be vertically oriented though… which means I need to get an L-shaped USB-C adapter at some point. But this is motivating to mess around with this. I’ll setup a sitting desk somewhere with a 1080p screen. You can see in my video that the 3440x1440 nearly a quarter of it is unassigned/shows up as white noise.

I will setup a work area for the Pinephone Pro. I’ll charge it up, and use it before it dies since it’s not using a powered dock. I’ll look around and find one that people have said works… and add it to my next Amazon shopping list.

I do… I want to commit to this… but I’m “committed” to many things… like I was working on learning Haskell for SimulaVR while also landing a new job and learning the new stuff there… robotics project… Libretto project… yeah I’m spread thin. Need to focus.

Here’s the setup, I’m going to try some other distros/GUI specifically because Plasma Mobile while it does reliably show the external monitor, the settings don’t stick and it’s buggy/slow (probably hardware).

My cat steals my chair for this area though despite his cushion. I’m using the old Chromebook to take notes with as I mess around with the PPP.

Here is Mobian Phosh on SD card using the FlePow 7-in-1 dock

Yeah the sleep wake issue is still there.

Mobian Phosh is more stable as far as maintaining the extended screen layout and being useful.

If the Pinephone Pro is not powered while docked, its battery life is very short, under 1 hour. This is assuming you’re using a USB-C dock that is outputting HDMI and powering a keyboard/mouse.

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